'Singing mailman' shows courage facing disease

February 26, 1999|By DAN RODRICKS

Sarcoidosis is defined by the dictionary as ``a chronic disease of unknown cause, characterized by the formation of nodules resembling true tubercles in the lymph nodes, lungs, bones, skin and other organs.''

It primarily afflicts African-Americans. It hit John Anderson last fall and affected his brain. Almost overnight, an active 41-year-old letter carrier known to his customers along Liberty Road as the ``singing mailman'' lost the ability to walk, to speak clearly, to drive a car and to write.

``His systems mimicked a stroke,'' says his wife, Greta. ``He will never be able to go back to the job he loved as a letter carrier.''

But now the rest of the story, the part Greta really wanted us to hear:

``What has sustained us through this ordeal is the love and support of family and friends. What came as a complete surprise to me was the response from my husband's customers along his mail route. Cards and phone calls poured in from people I didn't know. The business customers along his route on both sides of the 8000 block of Liberty Road tracked him down from hospital to hospital to home. His residential customers have been amazingly generous and kind.

``I never knew how much my husband was loved by those he delivered mail to. Many elderly customers told me about how he would take time to talk with them and look after them even after his workday was through. Many times when John was late for dinner I thought he was somewhere wasting time. Now I've learned he was running an errand for one of his customers or listening when no one else would.

``His fellow carriers at the Windsor Mill branch and the Gwynn Oak branch have donated their leave to John. This wonderful act of generosity has enabled us to stay in our home for now. And the staff at Polytechnic Institute - the principal, Ian Cohen, the faculty, counselors and secretaries - have been wonderful to my sons in ninth and 12th grades. My supervisor and my co-workers at BGE have likewise supported me and my family.''

Greta had a message for John, whom I spoke with briefly the other day just before he left for a therapy session at Kernan Hospital. ``I want John to know,'' she says, ``that he inspires others by the courageous way he has handled this most devastating situation. He is trying so hard, with a sense of humor and great determination. He is teaching our sons what a real man is, someone who does not give up.''

Corporate welfare continues

The deal with Marriott International for tax breaks and financial enticements in Montgomery County is hardly the first time the state of Maryland has offered welfare to a private corporation. So what's the huffing and puffing about? Politicians have taken us here before - middle-class taxpayers and small businesses subsidizing large, rich companies.

Marriott, large and rich, wants to either build a new headquarters in Rockville or enlarge its complex in Bethesda. It wants inducements and breaks on taxes to the tune of $50 million. The company is expected to add 700 new jobs; it already employs 3,000. Compare that with what the city of Baltimore gets in return for hundreds of millions in public subsidies for the stadiums at Camden Yards and the football stadium where the Washington NFL franchise plays. What's the difference? Skyboxes?

And, of course, the too-poor-to-patch-all-the-potholes city is subsidizing new hotels to the tune of $85 million.

Let's face it, folks. Maryland isn't unfriendly to business. It's a corporate welfare state.

Donor extends Scouts' reach

John D. Schapiro, former owner of Laurel Race Course, has endowed the Baltimore area council of the Boy Scouts of America with $300,000 for a program for poor kids. Schapiro, an octogenarian who earned his Eagle Scout badge as a boy in Baltimore, will see his money support the BSA's 4-year-old Scoutreach, which brings Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts programs to low-income neighborhoods in the city. Twelve Scoutreach programs are in place, each with a corporate sponsor. A group of Scoutreach children is scheduled to visit Schapiro's horse farm in Monkton next week.

The mind boggles

Now here's something that betters American society - rich people pooling their resources to buy a half-million-dollar house to keep emotionally disturbed juveniles out of it. Why didn't we think of this before? It just shows what can be accomplished when people come together and act as a team. Sort of like an Amish barn raising, you know?

The heart soars.

A sampling of cuisines

I went to dinner near the MCI Center in Washington. The acclaimed Chinese restaurant, Eat First, actually had the words ``pig intestines'' and ``duck feet'' on the menu. ... Germano Fabiani, Little Italy restaurateur, and his partners are about to open a new restaurant in Owings Mills. It's called Tosca Grille and features Tuscan cuisine and a wood oven for pizza. ... I never thought I would write these words: The sushi from Giant isn't half bad.

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